With the government in flux, Israel’s president tells lawmakers to ‘get a grip’ and lead

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, center, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, head of the Likud party, and Benny Gantz, chair of Blue and White, to discuss forming an emergency unity government, March 15, 2020. (Koby Gideon/GPO) 

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — President Reuven Rivlin of Israel has some advice for his nation’s lawmakers: “Get a grip!”

He made his remarks on Thursday a day after reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to bring down the government and call for new elections, along with the coalition crisis sparked by a vote on legislation that would ban gay conversion therapy.

At a meeting with social workers to show appreciation for them as they return to work after a 17-day strike, Rivlin said he was watching the developments, like all Israeli citizens, with “deep concern.”

“From here, as a citizen just like any other, speaking to you on behalf of us all, speaking to you in their voice, I say to you all: Get a grip! Stop the talk of early elections, a terrible option at this time, and save yourselves from it!” he said.

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Rivlin added: “The State of Israel is not a rag doll you drag around as you squabble. Our people, all of them, need you to be focused, clear and finding solutions to the unprecedented crisis that the State of Israel and humanity as a whole finds itself in. It’s in your hands to take action. Prove it to us!”

Netanyahu has decided to bring down the government and move to another vote in the fall rather than turn the office over to Benny Gantz in November 2021, the Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday.

Rivlin told the social workers: “At a time when we are fighting coronavirus, you social workers are on the front line. You are essential workers, the ICU of the wards, of Israeli society, especially at this time of crisis. Without you, we would not win this battle. Your patients need you, we need you.”